“The number one demand among new Manhattan Beach home buyers is ‘walk to town,’” Northwest Realtor David Salzman told the roughly 200 attendees at the Manhattan Beach Chamber’s economic forum Friday morning at the Manhattan Beach Marriott.
“People don’t want to use their cars,” Salzman said. “Proximity to the beach is critical for some, but Manhattan’s village quality is what’s the most important to most people,” he said.
Salzman backed up his observation with a battery of census data.
Between 2000 and 2010 Manhattan’s population grew 4 percent, but the number of households declined 5 percent.
Household with earnings over $200,000 rose 64 percent, but employment dropped 10 percent.
Residents who work locally increased 54 percent. Residents who commute by car dropped 16 percent.
Joining Salzman on a panel representing local businesses were Bank of Manhattan vice president David Curry and Manhattan Village general manager Liz Griggs.
Curry offered a practical reason for why household income is rising in Manhattan Beach. Today’s home buyers have to be stronger financially than home buyers of 10 years ago because today’s home loan regulations are more restrictive, he said.
Griggs, in responding to Salzman’s observations, noted that Manhattan Village is incorporating a “village component” into its recently approved 60,000 square foot expansion.
“We want Manhattan Village to be a place where people will want to bring their families,” she said.
Remodeling of the 44-acre shopping center will be conducted in three phases and completed by 2016, Griggs said.
“People like surface parking, but because of property values we have to go up,” she said. But to enhance the village atmosphere, the three-story parking structures won’t exceed the city’s 26-foot height limit, Griggs noted.
The conference title was “Residential and Commercial Communities Playing in the Same Sand Box.”
But it might as well been titled Residential and Commercial Parking in the Same Sand Box.
“Our downtown’s been a big success, but there are three issues yet to be resolved — parking, parking and parking,” said Manhattan Beach city manager Dave Carmany. Carmany’s panel included city officials from Pasadena and Culver City, which also have village-style downtowns.
“I get parking calls every day,” Culver City official Todd Tipton said. “I had a restaurant owner complain that when she goes into our parking garage there’s no place to park. We’re contracted to give her a space, so we restricted parking in the garage. Problem solved. Then she called to complain her customers have no place to park.”
As an aside, Tipton corrected the title given him in the program.
“I’m no longer the redevelopment administrator. I’m the economic development administrator,” he said. Because the state disbanded redevelopment agencies this year, he no longer has money with which to attract developers, but instead now offers “top notch customer service. We’ll hold your hands, help solve your problems,” he said he tells developers.
Culver City had utilized redevelopment funds since 1972 to resurrect what he described as a downtown on a “downward spiral.”
“I think we used the redevelopment funds well…but the state legislature has decided it’s not a good tool, leaving us with a 115,000 square foot office and restaurant proposal in the middle of downtown that is stuck, as are other critical projects on Washington and Centinela Boulevards.”
Representatives from all three cities stressed that downtown renovations require time and community input.
Former Pasadena city manager Richard Bruckner said redevelopment of his downtown began in the early 1970s when developers determined to replace the old buildings with an office park.
“A citizen revolt against demolishing the Pasadena Athletic Center led to formation of the Pasadena Heritage Foundation and a public-private partnership to preserve the old downtown,” Bruckner said.
“’One thing is certain, I would tell my staff. ‘There will be more meetings,” Bruckner said.
Pasadena economic development director Ray Montano confessed that prior to embarking on an ambitious mixed residential/commercial development, his city “didn’t give a lot of thought to the conflicts between residential and retail parking. After a busy weekend downtown, we need to clean the public garages. But as soon as we start steam cleaning at 5 a.m., the calls from residents began,’ he said.
One developer had to buy out the leases of all of his ‘luxury’ unit tenants over the bars and move them to the ‘industrial’ units over the lofts, he said.
Now Pasadena requires residential leases for mixed use buildings to have disclosures warning of “urban noise.”
“Don’t kid yourselves about having mixed use everywhere. It takes a lot of rooftops to support retail,” Bruckner said. A further complication, he added is, “You can’t mix residential and commercial parking. Residents want separate and secure parking.”
Contracting with a single valet operator has eased parking in downtown Pasadena because “a patron can leave his car on the east end of town, walk to the west end and the valet will radio across town for his car,” Bruckner said.
Carmany cited the public-private partnership that built the Metlox parking structure in downtown Manhattan as a model for more parking structures in Manhattan’s downtown.
“We have some moves in the works,” the city manager said.
Because land values are so high “surface parking is soon to be history,” he added.
Following the discussions an audience member suggested that instead of building more parking the cities discourage driving.
Bruckner responded by noting, “Pasadena built 4,000 new units in downtown. Many of the new residents don’t touch their cars on weekends. Pasadena has three light rail stops for people to get to work and home. Though only 10 percent of residents utilize light rail, 10 percent has a big impact.”
Bruckner also said that in contrast to the prevailing policy of requiring more parking from developers, Pasadena put a cap on parking spaces.
“It’s a radical proposal, but we capped parking at 1.75 spaces per unit, with a minimum of 1.5 spaces per unit. So we have fewer cars and less costly parking because each underground parking space costs $50,000.
“The city’s policy is to bring bus service to within one-quarter mile of 90 percent of residents,” he said. ER